Monday, August 29, 2011

Rare Unworn Royal Worcester Maternity Corset c. 1892 

This cotton Royal Worcester maternity corset c. 1892 was donated by the president of the Royal Worcester Corset Company to the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 1950.  Deaccessioned from the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York with original acquisition tag with accession numbers.  

This single layer cotton coutil maternity corset has two bust gores and two hip gores on each side for comfort during an uncomfortable period of life.  It is half boned with whale bone, and wrap-around adjustable straps support the back without compressing the stomach.  The center front panel has narrow horizontal rows of elastic for comfort.  An extremely unusual survival in unworn condition.

In her 2001 book The Corset, Valerie Steele blames the corset for numerous reproductive health issues that plagued women during the 19th century, up to and including miscarriages. She notes how many maternity corsets so closely resembled ordinary fashionable models, and how many women used their corset as an attempt to hide their pregnancy. This model is the exception. With its half-boned construction and wrap around adjustable straps in place of lacing, the Royal Worcester maternity corset supports the bust and the back without compressing the uterus, along the same lines as a modern belly band. 

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